Politifact Baselessly Accuses Harry Reid of Lying

A blog about business and economics.
Aug. 6 2012 8:43 PM

Politifact Baselessly Accuses Harry Reid of Lying

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Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid speaks on Capitol Hill in July

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

It's become normal for presidential candidates to release their tax returns. So normal, in fact, that when John McCain was considering putting Mitt Romney on the ticket as his vice presidential candidate in 2008, McCain's team asked to see Romney's tax returns and Romney agreed. But running for office in 2012, Romney has declined to make more than a year or two of information available. That, naturally, has led to a lot of speculation as to what those returns would show. My view is that the most tantalizing possibility is that he took an IRS amnesty relating to non-disclosed offshore bank accounts.

But obviously I don't really know what the deal is. Harry Reid, however, says that he does know and that a former Bain investor has told him Romney managed to avoid paying income taxes for ten years.

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Now is that true? I don't know. But I also think it's mighty forward of Politifact to come out and say that Reid's a liar worthy of a firm "pants on fire" ruling. Politifact hasn't seen Romney's returns. Politifact doesn't say they have a source who's seen Romney's returns. Maybe Reid or his source is lying, but maybe they're not. If that kind of allegation was made just out of the blue about a random person, you'd have to assess the odds of its veracity as being pretty low. But we do know that Romney has been willing to bear a substantial political price for the sake of keeping his tax records out of the public eye. Since it's overwhelmingly likely that there's something embarassing in there. Reid thinks his source knows what it is. If Reid or Reid's source is lying, it would be easy enough to prove. But absent additional information, there's no basis for the idea that Reid's pants are on fire.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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